Betrayal takes many forms. Trust from one person to another is betrayed when an agreement has been unilaterally breached. For example, when a contract (oral or otherwise) is broken without notice or mutual consent. A friend or loved one is betrayed when someone, without provocation, becomes disloyal or disregards mutual respect.
I have faced some very painful betrayals; close friends who had affairs with my partner, backstabbers, infidelities, broken contracts, exploitation for personal success, lies, and deception. Each event was shocking and painful, like being shot without warning. The most painful betrayals were from those who had been taught and professed the highest morals. But every betrayal also brought new enlightenment and an opportunity to mature and take better care of myself.
Trust is the fiber of any lasting relationship. A certain amount is verbal, and a certain amount is given. Without mutual trust, there is no relationship and only an illusion.
The deepest pain in life comes when a trusted person betrays that trust without regard for the other person’s feelings or harmful consequences. It leaves the other person feeling emotionally gutted and foolish. But it’s the perpetrator, not the victim that has lost the most. The perpetrator has lost the respect of a loyal companion and self-respect as well — foolish indeed.
The victim can find comfort and healing in facing the pain of betrayal, and in doing so, new opportunities and new love will find its way. The perpetrator will find no peace. Somebody can ignore their conscience, but as long as the body lives, the conscience remains alive.
You Are the Most Important Person You Will Ever Protect
Based on a biblical quote in Matthew, Martin Luther King, Jr. rephrased the scripture; “We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”
Honest people are the most vulnerable to betrayal. People who follow the rules have a mindset that everyone follows the same rules. When they are betrayed, they are told that they were stupid or naive — a further insult to injury.
It is impossible to go through life without ever being betrayed, but there are ways we can protect ourselves most of the time.
Almost all betrayals have warning signals. Some of these signals are overt, and if we pay attention, those signals are easily detected.
Some warning signals come from the person directly. Most people will tell you who they are, but you have to listen.
Other warnings might come from other people or resources that can be a reality check for a person’s true character. Is the person showing up consistently and reliably, or saying one thing and doing another? This type of evidence may help to provide safeguards or even walk away from a potentially devastating experience.
The best warning signal is our own inner voice. We all have an internal navigation system; some people call it their gut-instincts, A Course in Miracles refers to it as the holy spirit. In any case, it’s an intuition that signals something does not feel right. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. This is the point of deciding whether or not to trust or disregard that inner voice. Ignoring that guidance will likely lead to regrets later on.
It’s hard to be objective when we want a relationship to work. But no one will ever protect you better than yourself, and the best safeguards come from paying attention to the external and internal cues. Having a tough mind and the softness of a dove is another way of saying that we need to be sure that there is fair treatment on both sides. Listening with our hearts and minds and making sound decisions is the best way to safeguard against betrayal.
Learn, Grow, Forgive
The silver lining of any betrayal is the opportunity for both people to grow through the experience. If someone mistreats you, there is a tendency to want to distance from that person. But when each person is willing to look at the betrayal and use the conflict as an opportunity to heal and repair the wounds, then hearts can be joined, and the problems can be resolved.
When one person is unable or unwilling to be present to a healing solution, separation is inevitable. It is better to let go of a relationship than to live in the illusion that you have a relationship. When we keep expecting a different response from the same person under the same circumstances, we then betray ourselves.
No one will ever take better care of you than yourself. If you have been betrayed, feel the pain and allow yourself to heal and to forgive. Then use that experience to sharpen your mind while keeping your heart wide open. All of life’s experiences have meaning and purpose and can be the springboard for either falling down or soaring higher.
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Donna Marks is an educator and licensed psychotherapist and addictions counselor in Palm Beach, Florida. In 1989. She has worked with over 6,000 clients. Donna’s struggle with addiction brought her to a worldwide search for healing. She became licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987. In 1989, she earned a Doctorate Degree in Adult Education, then became Certified in Addictions, Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, and Sex Therapy. Donna developed an award-winning addiction training program at Palm Beach Community College. She co-owned an outpatient treatment program and is a consultant to treatment centers. Donna is the author of the multi-award-winning, Exit the Maze-One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure, and created an online course for people who want to be cured of addiction.
Donna is a public speaker and has shared her methods with hundreds of thousands of listeners on podcasts and radio shows.